As Donald Trump’s victory sent waves through society, the rise of populism continues to shock and surprise our world. The next big political blow points to France, where Marine Le Pen and her National Front party are gaining prominence. Le Pen is currently between 25% and 26% in voters’ support, while her main competitor François Fillion is positioned between 23% and 25%, according to an Ipsos Sopra Steria poll for French newspaper Le Monde. Even though Le Pen’s lead is only marginal, Trump’s presidential triumph and the Brexit result show that one should always expect the unexpected.
Following Theresa May’s highly anticipated speech on Brexit, Le Pen claimed that a strategy of “economic patriotism” and “intelligent protectionism” had been initiated by May. Some would say Le Pen’s positive comments regarding the words of May could point to similar policies that Le Pen would implement if she were to become president.
Last November, Le Pen also stated that victory in the French elections would be a normal outcome considering the political surge pervading the world and the third part of the “global revolution” which has seen Brexit and Trump’s accession to the White House cause tremors in society.
In an interview with BFMTV, Le Pen claimed that she will “announce a referendum”, citing reasons like regaining French territorial sovereignty and control of borders. David Cameron’s flawed decision in promising a UK referendum come to mind, however, Le Pen has already criticised Cameron’s decision saying that her referendum would be influenced by the “interests of the people” rather than electoral reasons.
Le Pen claimed that if Brussels did not grant France border control, economic and monetary sovereignty and control of all laws, a referendum would be the next plausible step. A potential “Frexit” could lead to more and more countries deciding to leave the EU and ultimately, a collapse of the bloc.
The Franc Revival
After initial calls for a French withdrawal from the euro, Le Pen has backtracked on her proposal and instead suggested introducing a national currency – the franc – used as a “parallel” currency in conjunction with the euro. At this point in time, details are not entirely clear but she has also claimed that she would redenominate French government debt in the new national currency.
One of the reasons for Le Pen’s plan could relate to the fact that a dual currency may lead to France avoiding potential currency fluctuations. Furthermore, Philippe Murer, Le Pen’s economic adviser, has said that a return to the European Currency Unit (ECU) which was in place before the use of the euro and used for internal accounting purposes, is another option being considered by the National Front.
The revival of a national currency could give rise to potential devaluation and this may also lead to other countries in the eurozone following suit, ultimately leading to the disintegration of the euro and another financial crisis like the ones that have plagued Europe in the past.
Le Pen’s vision appears to have the aim of appealing to voters in order to improve the party’s prospects through providing citizens with the choice of leaving the EU through a referendum.
Even though Le Pen is well positioned to make the final round of elections, she is considered unlikely to win the French presidency. However, recent events have shown that political outcomes are difficult to predict and opinion polls only serve as a potential idea but not a definitive indication of the result.